Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Trend Alert! - Luxury Vinyl

Since my blog post on "Flooring Trends," I've had a few people ask me questions about luxury vinyl.  People want to know the color trends, benefits and quality of the product, the different types of luxury vinyl, and if its right for their home.

During these conversations, though, I started to notice a pattern.  When people hear the word "vinyl," it often takes them to an image of their first apartment in college, with the awful, cheap vinyl flooring throughout.  You know, the kind of floor that would create a nick the shape of a beer bottle cap if you accidentally stepped on one?  Yes, that floor.

While writing this post, I actually decided to test my theory of the stigma behind the word "vinyl."  I went to the office next to mine and asked a coworker, "Before you knew much about luxury vinyl, what did you associate with the word vinyl."  Her response was "cheap, low quality sheet vinyl," and "old or outdated."  She then went on telling stories about the sheet vinyl that was in her home growing up, pairing her story with multiple distorted faces, all of which displaying the word "yucky."

So given our past experiences with sheet vinyl, many are surprised to hear the word "luxury" in front of the word "vinyl."  I'm going to use this post to hopefully help ease some of that stigma, so that the true benefits and quality of today's luxury vinyl can shine through!  Keep in mind that there are huge differences between the sheet vinyl you knew growing up and the luxury vinyl that is on the market today.

Here's a little review on luxury vinyl from my "Flooring Trends" post:  By using 3-D photo replication, luxury vinyl can closely resemble any material, including hardwood and stone.  Each tile is embossed to mimic the desired texture.  This way, you're able to have the high-end look of hardwood or stone, without the high cost and more difficult maintenance.

There are a two primary types of luxury vinyl: luxury vinyl tile and luxury vinyl plank.

  • Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) often times mimics a slate or stone.  You can even grout most LVT, if you'd like, for added realism.  For the best results, you should use the grout that the manufacturer recommends.

  • Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) mimics wood.  Luxury vinyl is known for its variety of colors, which really allows for flexibility in design.  Some of the more popular styles of LVP are reclaimed wood, oak, exotic woods, grey-toned, salt-worn, seaside, and dock wood.  The best part about LVP, is that you can create unique patterns and color variations.  The plank sizes also vary from small to wide, just like real hardwood.  This picture demonstrates some of the different wood colors available.

The benefits of LVT and LVP extend further than just design, though.  Luxury vinyl is less expensive than wood or stone.  It's also super easy to clean and maintain.

Key Features and Benefits of Luxury Vinyl
  • Scratch Resistant  -  This one is a huge benefit that many consumers aren't aware of.  In the past, vinyl was always very easy to scratch, peel, tear, or nick.  Vinyl has come a long way, though, and luxury vinyl  is actually very scratch resistant.  Luxury vinyl has a ware layer.  This layer typically consists of aluminum oxide or urethane, which helps resist wear and tear.
  • Waterproof  -  Since luxury vinyl is waterproof, it won't warp, buckle, or crack after a spill.  This is especially beneficial for households with pets or children!
  • Easy Replacement (If Damaged) - If an area of your floor is damaged, you can replace just a partial area of the floor with LVT and LVP.
  • Soft to the Touch - LVT and LVP are both softer than the products they mimic.  Some people desire the softer touch on their feet for their homes.

While it lacks the same quality and durability that LVT and LVP have, luxury vinyl sheet (LVS) is definitely still a popular product on the market.  It is very inexpensive, and often times takes on some sort of decorative pattern or mimics slate, stone, or wood.  One of the downfalls of LVS is that, unlike LVT and LVP, if damaged, you must replace the whole sheet, and cannot replace just one section.  LVS has also come a long way from the vinyl sheets of the past, though, and is much more scratch and tear resistant than it used to be.

There is much to know about luxury vinyl, and I don't want to bore you with every little detail.  I know that with so many flooring choices, coming to a flooring decision for your home or business can be stressful!  So, if you have any questions about luxury vinyl, or any other flooring, please feel free to ask me!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Step 1 of Buying a Home

My fiance and I have been talking about buying our first home together for awhile now, and I realized coming into this whole process, that buying a home was the first "adult activity" that I really felt I knew absolutely nothing about!

Now this was hard for me, because I have always prided myself on being quite knowledgeable, or at least simply catching on quickly to most other "adult" things that I've done.  Renting a house, going to college, getting a job, buying a car, moving across the county, getting engaged, paying bills and loans, understanding credit, creating a budget, ect.. no problem!  These things were a piece of cake.  Even having my first child has come so naturally that the overall stress level of "not knowing" has been kept at a minimum.

Buying a house, though, this is completely foreign.  We are just at the beginning of that journey, and I still know nothing about it, but I thought, hey, if I know nothing, chances are, many of my readers could be in a similar boat!  So I thought I'd share our journey with you all, hoping that it might give a tiny bit of insight to someone out there whose feeling similar to me!

This first post will summarize the conversations you should be having before you begin your process, and then lastly, it will outline what our first real step looked like with a loan officer.
I recommend that you start by simply talking about it!  Before we had our daughter, we used to take drives on Sundays around different neighborhoods and talk about what we liked or didn't like in a home.  At the time, it was just for fun, but now that we're actually considering buying, I'm super glad we've already had tons of those types of conversations!  So even if you're not considering buying yet, watch some HGTV, search Realtor.com, take some drives with your partner, and start finding some common ground.

You also should be having conversations about where you'd like to live.  It's hard to buy a home when you're unsure where you want to dig your feet in.  So, we've had many conversations about careers, our families, dreams, and preferences.  While we love where we are now, we've tried to balance all of these factors and have chosen a new location to move to when we buy.

This is where we hit our stand still, though.  I had no idea how to get the whole process rolling from there.  So, I started asking around, I talked to my mother, my sister, friends, and coworkers, until someone finally directed me in a way that made sense.  Most of everyone's advice was to go to bank and see what you get pre-approved for.  It really is solid advice, but I needed more.  I needed someone to tell me when I should start the process, who to contact, and what that contact would actually do for me.

Step 1

A coworker of mine finally said the things that "made sense."  She told me that my first step should be to contact a loan officer.  She told me to ask him about how much we could currently be pre-approved for, and then ask for pointers on getting approved for a mortgage.  Whether it be the specifics on cleaning up your credit or what debt you need to pay off, a loan officer will be able to give you advice on getting the mortgage you want.  She then gave me the contact information to a reputable loan officer, who she knew.

So, I contacted Dale Prisk, who is a loan officer with Pacific Union Financial.  He told me that much of your loan approval amount depends on what your monthly payments are.  I was nervous because I had just traded in my vehicle and my new loan is for $10,000 more than what I owed on my previous loan, but he assured me that, since my monthly payment only went up $20/month, it wouldn't have a super large effect on anything.

Next he told me that there are certain aspects of your credit that have a larger influence over loan approval than others.  For instance, some debts may be easier and more beneficial to pay off than others.
Dale had me fill out an online application form, which didn't take too long (I did it over my lunch break).  He is going to evaluate our credit, debt, and income, and then will get back to us with pointers on what we should be doing to clean up our credit or which debts to pay off in order to help us get approved for our loan.  Just so you know, this does require a hard credit pull, which will ding your credit slightly, but Dale said that between today and the time of actual purchase, the small credit ding will not end up being an issue.  Keep in mind that we are about 6 to 10 months out from the time when we'd like to purchase a home.

So that's where we're currently at.  It's only the first baby step, but I am totally relieved to finally feel as though I got my first bit of usable information on how to start the whole process.

I asked Dale if I could share his professional contact information in my blog for my readers who find themselves in a similar situation as us, and he said yes, so feel free to shoot him an email or give him a call.  His contact information is at the bottom of this post.

My main concern was actually that by starting the process, I would find myself stuck in it; however, that's not true, this first step is completely non-committal, and understanding your finances is beneficial even if you don't end up buying.

If you are considering buying a home within the next 6 months to a year, I highly recommend contacting a loan officer now; that way you have plenty of time to clean up credit or pay off debt if need be.

I'll be blogging about our entire process of buying a home, step by step.  If you want to be sure you don't miss any of those major steps, make sure you subscribe to my blog.

Also, if you have any questions or want clarification on anything, just comment and ask, I'm more than happy to be completely open about our process and finances.  Also, I have great tips on budgeting, so if you need help there, please reach out to me!

Dale Prisk | NMLS#1265947Loan Officer

Pacific Union Financial, LLC
100 N Main Street

Fort Atkinson WI 53538
920-397-3165 (Office)
414-721-1070 (Cell)
dale.prisk@loanpacific.com (Email)

Live with what you love.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Crock Pot Mac & Cheese Recipe


2 cups of elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons real butter
1 cup of milk (I use 1%, but you can also use 2% or whole)
1 can condensed cheddar soup
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream (I use reduced fat, but you can use any kind you prefer)
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt (Optional - I don't use salt in mine)


Spray crock pot lightly with cooking oil.  If you use a crock pot liner, then just spray the liner.

Boil macaroni for 6 minutes and drain pasta.

Melt cheese and butter together.  This can either be done using a medium saucepan, or in the crock pot on the "high" heat setting.  It takes longer to melt it in the crock pot, so if you choose to do it this way, then start melting your cheese and butter a little earlier)

Mix other ingredients (milk, cheddar soup, sour cream, and pepper) in bowl.

Add cheese and butter to crock pot.  (If melting in saucepan)

Turn crock pot temperature to "low."

Add other mixed ingredients to crock pot.  (It's okay if cheese is not completely melted in crock pot at this point)

Stir cheese, butter, and other ingredients together.

Add the pasta and lightly stir again.

Cook on low for 1.5 hours, stirring frequently (approximately every 20 minutes).

Live with what you love.

(The picture used is not an actual picture of my mac & cheese.  The reason for this is that I decided last minute to share my recipe for National Mac & Cheese Day, but I do not have any pictures from past times of having made it.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Carpet Tiles - For a Trendy, Modern Look!

If you're looking for trendy flooring, that is also easy to maintain, carpet tiles may be just what you're looking for!

Carpet tiles have been very popular in businesses, but they have also found their way into the homes of those who desire stylish and modern, yet practical flooring.

They are perfect for high traffic areas, or areas in which people bring food or beverages, which is the main reason they are so commonly seen in college campuses and restaurants. Pet owners and families with children also find carpet tiles to be a low maintenance option for their homes. So what makes carpet tiles so great?

Benefits of Carpet Tiles

Carpet tiles are very pet and child-friendly! They are easy to clean, and if a tile is ruined, you are able to replace just one tile, instead of the whole floor! If need be, you can remove a tile to rinse it with water, as well.

Carpet tiles can also be useful for uniquely shaped rooms. If you have a room that has an awkward layout, carpet tiles are super easy to cut down to fit around any shape.

The ease of installation is another reason many people have opted for carpet tiles. It won't cost you much to have an installer put these in your home or business. Or if you feel like taking on a project, chances are you could successfully install these yourself! The benefit here is that they don't require professional fitting like regular carpet does.

Carpet tiles are also extremely versatile. If you are going for a more laid-back type of space, or something neutral for your home, you can go with a solid colored tile or a very simple pattern. If you want to spice it up a bit, or go for something really modern and trendy, you can go with a fun pattern or funky colors. There's tons of different design styles when it comes to carpet tiles, so they really can fit the taste of anyone.

Another added bonus: carpet tiles are easy to take with you when you move. This is especially great for renters!

Check out some different styles carpet tiles can bring to a space:

Neutral Colors
Source: FLOR

Funky Color Pop
Source: CS4 Flooring

Fun Patterns
Source: Pinterest

I absolutely love how stylish these area!  The low maintenance and easy cleaning are simply bonuses!  What do you think?  Would you put carpet tiles in your home or business?

All carpet tile recommendations can be found or matched at CS4 Flooring & Design

Live with what you love.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Flooring Trends

With so many choices available, deciding on the perfect flooring for your home or business can be a daunting task.  You want a product that is stylish, trendy, & accents the overall design of your space; but you may also have other needs, such as durability, & ease of cleaning & maintenance.  Let’s take a look at current flooring trends, to help you pick the flooring that best suits your needs for your new home, business, or renovation!
1.  Luxury Vinyl
By using 3-D photo replication, luxury vinyl can closely resemble any material, including hardwood and stone.  Each tile is embossed to mimic the desired texture.  This way, you’re able to have the high-end look of hardwood or stone, without the high cost and more difficult maintenance.
  • lower costs than hardwood or stone
  • easy to maintain & clean
  • durable, water resistant
  • others will think it’s real wood or stone!
2.  Patterned Carpet / Tile
Your floor is your 5th wall, so why not use it as a design statement!  This trend leans toward simple, solid (non-patterned) walls, furniture, & décor, paired with a pretty patterned floor.
Patterned tiles add character to your home.  In your bathroom you can continue the tile up a wall as a feature wall.
3.  Recycled Flooring
The “go green” trend has led to consumers demanding more eco-friendly products.  This trend is not only better for the environment, but has also led to some pretty awesome, vintage looking products!
Check out this stunning hardwood floor made re-purposed from old barn wood!  I used this wood in a previous post of mine because I loved it so much.
Some carpet manufacturers are recycling old products into new products.  Shaw floors is a great example of a company that carries products like this.  25% of the content in this carpet is recycled material.
4.  Wide Plank Hardwood
Wide plank hardwood has been a very popular trend lately.  Consumers have ventured toward planks ranging from 5 to 7 inches wide.  Wide planks can make a room seem more visually spacious, which goes a long with another trend of spacious, open-concept home layouts.
These planks are 7 inches wide.
For color, dark hardwood has been very popular, as well as grey-toned.  The first picture is from my boss's home.
The wood species in this grey-toned hardwood is Maple, and the color is Moonshine.
My favorite trends are the patterned carpet/tiles, and the grey-toned hardwood.  You can also find wood mimicking, grey-toned luxury vinyl or laminate.

All flooring recommendations can be purchased from CS4 Flooring & Design
If you're working with a budget, find great sale prices on flooring at Madison Floor Stock

Live with what you love.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

DIYs & Garage Sale Finds!

It's the most wonderful time of the year.. No, not Christmas.. it's Garage Sale Season! (So basically like Christmas for some of us ;)
What some might find to be a useless old pair of crutches, others see as a repurposed book shelf!  Take your garage sale finds & get creative folks!
Here's 5 inventive ways to use your awesome garage sale finds!
1.  Shutter Magazine Holder
Simplified Steps:
  • Cut out every other slate using a Dremmel (or pop them out with a hammer)
  • Sand, prime, & spray paint
If you're going for a more vintage look, distress your shutter.
There's tons of DIY projects you can do with old shutters, so if you see these while garage sale-ing, make sure to grab them!
Head to My Repurposed Life for more detailed instructions.
2.  Mosaic China Plate Table Top
  Photo Source: Country Living
Simplified Steps:
  • break plates apart with a tile nipper (can also be done with a hammer)
  • prepare your table (wood: apply waterproof sealer, plastic: scuff with sandpaper)
  • spread tile adhesive onto tabletop
  • place tile pieces on table in design pattern, let adhesive set
  • apply a thick coat of grout using a spackle knife
  • use damp sponge to remove excess grout
You can also do this to a chair or to garden stones!
 Photo Source: fleamarketmakeovers
Mackenzie Wright provides more detailed instructions at SF Gate.
3.  Story Canvas
Photo Source: Fabulously Flawed
Simplified Steps:
  • tear out the pages of a book
  • arrange the pages, make sure the pages hang over the canvas to cover the sides (you may need to cut some pages to fill in small gaps)
  • glue down pages to canvas with modge podge & a paint or sponge brush
  • smooth out pages with hand & wait for glue to set
  • use brush to apply a thin layer of modge podge to the entire surface
To avoid bubbling:
  • let dry for a minute, then place canvas face down on a sheet of wax paper
  • place a book inside the frame of the canvas (frame not included), & then 2 more books over the whole canvas (frame included)
  • let it set for 20 minutes, peel off wax paper
  • if you still have bubbles, let it sit on a flat surface over night
This one is fun because you can use any book you want.. a children's book, a piano songbook, your favorite novel, newspaper pages, calendar pages, old CD covers, ect.!
4.  Rake Wine Glass Holder
 Photo Source: the kitchn
Simplified Steps:
  • break off handle of rake
  • use twine or ribbon to wrap around top or tie a bow
  • use 2 nails to hang on wall
This one is super easy & cute!  If you want a more clean look, paint your rake to match the room you put it in.
5. Crib Desk
 Photo Source: Tori Spelling Editorial
Simplified Steps:
  • remove drop side of older crib (if crib is newer, just remove front side of crib)
  • adjust crib to highest newborn height
  • cut 2 mdf boards to the mattress size (use strong boards)
  • paint with blackboard paint
  • attach hooks as preferred (suction, hanging, ect.)
What an awesome way to recycle an old crib.  Children's chalkboard desks can run over $100, so this is also a much more affordable alternative for your kid's creativity corner!
I wanted to see what other people were doing for DIY projects, so I went to Facebook & asked some of my friends to let me feature their projects in my blog!
 This one was done by my friend Lisa.  What an awesome transformation!

My sister, Brandi, sent me a picture of her new entry-way coat hanger she made from a wood pallet!
Here's a couple of Brandi's other projects:
Frappuccino bottle made into a vase using twine.
Transformed jars with burlap, lace, & twine.
Check out how my friend Kristi recycled these tires to create an awesome play space!  A car table, that doubles as toy storage, and a cute little chair.
Finally, my new project.. an antique school desk!  We have been too busy to get started on this project yet, but here is the hidden treasure that we picked up at a garage sale a few weeks ago!  We plan on creating an art station for our daughter, while keeping as much of this antique desk's vintage flare as possible!
Comment below about your home improvement projects/designs.  I'd love to show off your hard work by featuring it in a future post!
Live with what you love.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Nursery Designs

Whether your planning now or fantasizing years in advance, one of the most fun rooms to decorate is your child's nursery!
When my fiancé and I found out we were expecting, I decided I wanted to do a Jungle theme for our little peanut, regardless of what the gender was.  So, my fiancé, being the handyman that he is, immediately painted the nursery green.  Well.. then when we found out we were having a girl.. I decided she needed to have a princess room, and next thing you know my fiancé is painting the room a cream/tan color to go with my new pink and brown theme:)  Luckily the carpet he had put in still matched perfectly!
Moral of the story.. before going paint and project crazy, make sure you've decided on a theme and colors that are peaceful and pretty, because you very well may be staring at them at 1, 3, and 5 a.m. every night for the next 6 months! ;)
Marie Pari
Photo Source: Pinterest
 Navy and coral together are so pretty and elegant!  What could be more perfect for your little girl's nursery?
Photo Source: Pinterest
Take a couple of glass milk bottles, paint them, tie a burlap or hemp rope bow, and add some artificial flowers to create an inexpensive, adorable piece of décor.
Photo Source: HalfPintPMB on Etsy
 Repurpose a vintage china cabinet to make the perfect little armoire.  I like the idea of doing this piece in distressed pink.
Flooring to Match:
A medium toned, small-planked hardwood for a classic feel.  Almost everyone prefers wider planked hardwoods these days, but choosing the right small planked wood makes the room feel vintage.  Especially if you live in an older home, everyone walking into this room will wonder whether or not its the original hardwoods.  Feel free to add a cream colored rug in the center of the room, since, well.. babies learning to walk fall a lot :)
 The hardwood is great, but some prefer carpet in their bedrooms, especially in a child's room.  If I were decorating this room for my daughter, I would actually go with this pretty, patterned nylon carpet.
Lil Man Cave
 Photo Source: The Coral Cottage on Etsy
I loved the navy so much for the girl themed nursery that I had to do one for boys, as well!  I recommend grey paint for the walls, with a navy accent wall.  Or if you're a fan of DIY projects, create your own wood plank accent wall.
Photo Source: Project Nursery
Here's a few other pieces that you can either make or buy that will add to the rustic outdoors theme of this room.
Sold by RusticLuvDecor on Etsy for $65.82
This canvas sign cracks me up!  How cute is that?
Sold at Amazon for $30
Flooring to Match:
Tie it all together with a light grey carpet.  A darker hardwood works for this space, as well.
Travel Inspired
You can go one of two ways with your travel themed nursery.  The 1st theme is "Up, Up, & Away"  Stick to pastel colors for this design.
Photo Source: Little Hands
This is the perfect scenario to use a wallpaper feature wall!
Make your little one his/her very own mobile.
Photo Source: francisass.tumblr.com
A globe is a perfect design piece for a travel inspired room.  You can also personalize your globe using paint, or purchase one already personalized from Etsy.
Photo Source: Kate's Creative Space
This hot air balloon is made out of paper mache, but you can also use a paper lantern.
Flooring to Match:
I choose a light multi-colored carpet for this room.  It's warm & goes well with the pastel colors in this room.
The 2nd Travel Inspired theme is what I call "Oh the Places You'll Go" (this is also my 2nd week in a row of referring to Dr. Seuss in my blog, so I'm realizing that I may need to get out of my house more and have more conversations with adults ;)
Photo Source: Pretty Perfect Living
Put a large map behind the crib, and let that be your feature wall.
Sold from World Market
What would look more perfect than a suitcase dresser for your little one's travel inspired room?
Inspire your little one to imagine and explore.
You could take your regular light switch covers and make this yourself, or purchase them from Etsy!
Flooring to Match:
So this flooring is literally awesome.  There's only 2 planks here, and they are large planks.  Each plank is made out of smaller planks of old barn wood.  This hardwood works so well for your little one's travel themed room because the wood looks old and "well-traveled on."  All of the little nicks and flaws come from the fact that this wood is repurposed.  Man, I can't get enough of this floor!
Mother Earth
Photo Source: dominomag on instagram
 This isn't the same wallpaper from last weeks blog on wallpaper feature walls, but it was the inspiration behind this theme.  While writing last weeks blog, I was thinking to myself that while I loved that look for a dining room, I was jealous that I hadn't thought of it a year ago for my daughter's nursery!
This theme could also be easily done in a boy's nursery, by simply switching out the wallpaper for a tree decal, while keeping the design pieces.
Photo Source: earthbound-living.com
This teepee can be found online at The Land of the Nod for $159
I also found tons of different styles of teepees by searching for them on Etsy.

Complete the look with an antique style rocking chair. 
When I was thinking of the perfect rocking chair for this room, the 1st thing that came to mind was the rocking chair that my mother has in the nursery she created for her grandkids!  So the chair pictured above is a picture of my mother's actual chair.
I remembered that she bought this chair while at a benefit, though, so I wanted to find a similar one so you all can purchase one, too!
Sold at Wayfair for $382
I adore this feather mobile, it looks like a dream catcher.  You could use an actual dream catcher to make a mobile, as well!
Sold by DreamkeepersLLC on Etsy for $141
Flooring to Match:
The hardwood variations are gorgeous.  Everything about this wood feels very natural.
I choose a carpet that was still light, but had darker variations, so that the room wouldn't look washed out with the light colored teepee or other light furniture/décor options.
I could literally spend my whole life just picking out colors, themes, and décor pieces for nurseries, but I guess I'll just have to settle for redecorating my daughter's room every few years :)
Which nursery was your favorite?  Comment your answer in the comments section!  My personal favorite.. Mother Nature
All flooring recommendations can be purchased from CS4 Flooring & Design
To make sure that you don't miss out on any of your favorite designs, subscribe to my blog.  If you are reading this from your phone you may have to switch to the desktop version to find the subscribe button:)
Live with what you love.